Music and Words: The Piano Music of Philip Glass
Serbian pianist Branka Parlić is one of the world’s finest interpreters of the music of minimalist and post-minimalist composers from the second half of the 20th century (and early 21st century), including Philip Glass, Michael Nyman, Wim Mertens, Arvo Pärt and others. She is also a specialist in the music of French fin de siècle composer Erik Satie, and has made several recordings of his work and performed concerts such as Satie and Beyond at London’s Royal Festival Hall in 2015. In Aarhus, Denmark, in 2016, she organized and participated, together with pianist Natasa Penezic, in the very first integral performance of Erik Satie's proto-minimalist piece Vexations.
In this very special concert, she will present piano works by Philip Glass. This will include selections from Glass’s 20 Piano Etudes, a work that she premiered, along with pianists Nada Kolundzija and Natasa Penezic, at the Self Portrait concert in Belgrade, Serbia in 2015. Dreaming Awake, a piece that she performed in Belgrade in 2017 in honour of Glass’s 80th birthday, and Wichita Vortex Sutra, which will be performed along with an actor’s narration of Allen Ginsberg’s anti-war poem.
Philip Glass composed his 20 Piano Etudes between 1991 and 2012 as a means to enhance his own solo performing as a pianist. These works created for him certain challenges to improve his playing technique. Though his first book of Etudes primarily emphasized the idea of the piece as an exercise, the second set developed into what Glass called “an extension of a musical journey undertaken in the last ten years.” Whereas the first book addressed pianistic technique, the second book became a series of exercises in what the composer described as “the language of music itself—developing new strategies regarding rhythmic and harmonic movement.”
Philip Glass’s Dreaming Awake was composed in 2003 to benefit Jewel Heart, a spiritual, cultural and humanitarian organization devoted to the ancient teachings of Tibetan Buddhism to which Philip Glass has long been deeply dedicated. It presents a contemporary view of the classic struggle between the sacred and profane.
Philip Glass's solo piano piece Wichita Vortex Sutra (1988) was inspired by poet Allen Ginsberg's anti-war, stream-of-consciousness poem. The poem Wichita Vortex Sutra originated as a voice recording that Ginsberg made with an Uher tape recorder as he travelled in a bus across the Midwest, back in 1966. He composed it by dictating the words as they came to him and speaking them into the recorder. The music was written by Philip Glass to accompany Ginsberg’s performance of the poem, and was included on Glass’s album Solo Piano and in his chamber opera Hydrogen Jukebox.